I need to be honest and transparent. I enjoy writing. Many times when I begin writing a blog, message or Bible study, I want to lay out the complete truth of what I think and believe. In leadership there are highs and lows. In ministry there are definite highs and lows. In my short seven or so years in ministry, I have experienced many highs and lows personally. My first two years as a full-time student minister I was about to marry my wife, Cassidy when my brother Jordan was dealing with cancer. It was a time of strong emotions and questions while leading in ministry. How am I supposed to lead when personally I am completely discouraged, struggling emotionally, financially, and personally. I was learning a ton about myself and how to lead in ministry. I was trying to invest time, energy, prayer and encouragement into students. Months of encouragement, teaching and praying for different ones and then they would turn their back on me. I would say even now, seven years or so later that the most heart-breaking issue in ministry is pouring your life into people through the Lord's strength and they simply "shrug it off", block you on twitter/Facebook, ignore you and act as if God is non-existent. It breaks my heart and more importantly, God's heart. I still do not have a good grasp on how to handle this in ministry. I think this is the hidden truth of the ministry that many either do not talk about or just leave the ministry. I'm now in a place in my life that I want to help other leaders who are starting out (I'm praying about writing a book on ministry). I want to encourage leaders to never base faithfulness to God on how people respond to the love and truth of the gospel. God is teaching me to minister, serve, and pour out his grace into others without the expectation of it in return. Isn't this what Jesus did?
Here are a few things I do when I'm faced with the highs and lows of ministry:
- Spend time alone crying out to God. Get alone and write out your prayers. Ask God to forgive you in certain areas. Thank Him specifically for the blessings and relationships in your life. - Share the highs or lows with a trusted friend. Share the needs by being vulnerable and transparent. Ask for encouragement and prayer. - Celebrate those who ARE obeying Jesus and living for Him instead of complaining about those who are not. I believe this is important! Invest in those who are hungry and quit catering to those who think they don't need to grow aka "the church kid who acts as if they own the church". - When salvation and baptism occur, celebrate and encourage the person! - Speak truth into people's lives with grace. Challenge the status quo, but never choose to win the argument over the possibility of losing the relationship. - As a leader don't base your worth on how much money you make but on how many lives you impact for eternity. Money does not equal happiness. - Focus on who people are becoming instead of who they are right now. It takes time. Pray for God to move.
What I am not saying is neglect the students who need extra encouragement and especially those who need Jesus. What I have found is that the ones who cause the most problems in a student ministry and church is the students/adults who have been there for a long time and see no need for change in their lives. They are apathetic and have a "what can you do for me" mentality. This attitude is what is killing the church across America. Selfishness that is disguised in being comfortable basically tells those outside of the church to go to Hell.
I believe that a majority of my time in ministry, I have been "tilling up" the hard soil for the gospel to take root. It is hard work but no matter who spreads the seed or sows the fruit, it is vitally important for people's lives to be changed. If you are in ministry in some way, don't give up! Through the highs and lows God IS and will ALWAYS be faithful. I'm thankful God allows you and me to play a role in His story. Never give up on God's calling on your life!